Thursday, April 28, 2016

PBL - Project Management Made Easier with Trello

A while back I posted some ideas on how to keep the students on track during a PBL run (PBL - Avoiding the pitfalls of "Doing Research"). I've been working with several iterations of the Project Timetable, Daily Project Work Report and Project Management Sheet with some success, but my students and I still struggle with some of the finer points of PBL management in the classroom.

You see, some of my students hear project and immediately jump up to get scissors and glue, while others get a computer and open Google slides. Often I find myself saying, "You don't even know what the project is about and you are already thinking about the final product?" So the question continues, "How can I help students visualize the steps needed to successfully complete a project run without micro-managing?", and more importantly, "How can I see where everyone is at any given time?" I think I may have found the answer in Trello.

Trello is a free project management tool. The interface is simple. You create a board, which is really a list of lists, filled with cards. The cards can include pictures, attachments, checklists, labels and due dates. These cards can be moved around and edited all members of a board. Basically anything that you would need to know about a project run can be added to the board.

Here is how I am using it for my PBL runs:

  1. I create an assignment board master and make it public. The master includes the assignment, specific links I want to share, expected due dates, etc. 
  2. The "press secretary" from each team creates a copy my board master, and shares it with his/her teammates and myself.
  3. As students work on the project run, they update the board, moving the cards from "To do" to "Doing" to "Done", and add the evidence of their work. They can add links, pictures, documents, you name it!
  4. Things in the  "Done" list can be opened  by me to provide feedback. I can  even move things back to the "Doing" for revision. The board is updated in real time, so any time anything happens the students have the "latest" information.

Trello does not have to be only for PBL. Read what Melanie Pinola has to say about Trello. And no, I am not affiliated with Trello in any way. It simply has allowed me and my students to become better at this PBL business.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

The End is Nigh

The end of the school year is upon us. Students are dreaming about that long summer vacation. Behaviour issues are on the rise. You are asking yourself, what can I do to keep students engaged? How can I recap what was learned and end my school year strong?

Below are some of the assignments that I use:

I would love to add to these. What are some of the things you do to keep your students learning until the last day?

Saturday, April 9, 2016

StunConference - A Student Led Unconference

If you are an educator you have probably have heard of un-conferences. Maybe you have even attended a couple. You might have even toyed with the idea of doing one with students, especially if you are a project based teacher. After all, they kind of feel a little like the "need to know" discussions you have after your entry event.

However, the logistics  seem daunting. Where are you going to hold it? How are you going to keep students on track? Do you really have the time? What if the students do not buy into it? What if a session creator gets no participants? These are the questions that good friends and masterful educators Samantha McMillan and Melissa Garcia had a couple of months ago when they decided to "Just do it". Today, I was in Samantha's class and witnessed what I had thought impossible: A 6th grade student led un-conference.

So, what did it look like? Engagement and deep conversation centered around "Imagine the Future". All students were:
- Participating
- On task
- Holding each other accountable
- Learning from each other
It was a teacher's dream.

Now for the tricky part. How do you achieve this?

Your break-out sessions do not need to be separated by walls. Student led un-conferences can be done in a regular classroom. You just need to have students sit together. It will get loud, but not much louder than in any group activity.

Decide on an un-topic conference appropriate for the students. It should be broad enough and interesting to the students. Start with a topic that inspires conversation: Imagine the Future (today's topic), College, Immigration, Equality. You know, the small stuff.
Provide students with some time (whether in class or out) to come up with break-out session ideas. Have the "Session Wall" posted for a couple of days at least. It does not have to be fancy, some butcher paper and post-its will do. Make sure you emphasize that not all students need to create a session. Have them read the session wall before adding topics. Remind them that if they want to lead a session that is already posted they can simply participate.

Prepare the students. Explain the structure. Go over the norms. Emphasize collaboration. Here is the website Samantha used with her students for today's topic: StunConferenceAdVENTURE (Be aware that some of her links are specific to her class, so they will not work for you).
With her permission, I have tweaked it into a generic one that you can use in your class, with specific ties to PBL - to make your own copy of the documents open them in Google drive and click File>make a copy. 

The day of the un-conference, take a deep breath and step back. Visit the different break-out sessions as a participant. Above all, avoid taking over. Trust your students and see them soar.

If you are wondering about the electronics, that is where their note-taking documents are.
I invite you to try it out. You will not be disappointed. If you do, tweet it out using #StunConference.